Health centres in Sanikiluaq, Arctic Bay need replacement: MLAs
"The smell of sewage was enough to make you gag and almost want to throw up"
MLAs representing Sanikiluaq and Arctic Bay want the Government of Nunavut to move more quickly to replace their decrepit health centres.
That was the message from Hudson Bay MLA Alan Rumbolt and Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott Oct. 30 when the health department’s capital budget for 2013-14 was up for discussion in the Nunavut legislature’s committee of the whole.
There’s not enough room in the Sanikiluaq health centre, Rumbolt said in an Oct. 30 member’s statement.
“When the Sanikiluaq health centre was first built, the population of the community was around 500 people. Today, it is closer to 900 residents,” he said. “The health centre does not have the space within its walls to accommodate the health centre staff, the social worker, the mental health worker, and the home care workers.”
When specialists or doctors visit Sanikiluaq, the staff offices in the 27-year-old building become patient rooms and closets become offices: “this situation cannot continue,” he said.
In December 2010, Sanikiluaq’s health centre also closed due to fuel fumes, forcing services to move to a makeshift clinic in Nuiyak School.
As for Arctic Bay, its aging health centre, built 26 years ago, is in constant need of repairs.
“I was in the health centre for my annual checkup, I think my heart kind of went out to the staff who actually work there and live there during the day,” Elliott said Oct. 30 in the committee of the whole. “I walked into the health centre and the smell of sewage was enough to make you gag and almost want to throw up. The health staff actually works on a daily basis in conditions like that and, unfortunately, since they live above the health centre, they have to experience that in the evenings.”
Rumbolt and Elliott both complained about how capital plans for new health centres in their communities have suffered changes and delays.
In the case of Sanikiluaq, the Government of Nunavut issued a request for proposals for office space and got no response, Rumbolt said.
“However, it appears that no further efforts have been made whatsoever. It seems they simply stopped trying,” Rumbolt said in the committee of the whole, where he asked for the health department’s explanation about “why the health centre replacement project no longer appears on the five-year capital plan.”
Deputy health minister Peter Ma said “the cost, I guess, is a bit prohibitive in terms of what we would get in terms of value.”
“Unfortunately, we have just not moved as quickly as we would have liked,” Ma said.
MLAs noted in their review of the health department’s capital budget that new projects continue to be added to the capital plan “despite the fact that progress on approved capital projects is clearly not proceeding as planned.”
The standing committee members also expressed concern that “current capital planning practices will overwhelm the capacity of the government to deliver projects in a timely manner,” Nattilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk, chair of the standing committee, said.
For 2013-14, the health department requested $24.6 million.
With the new Repulse Bay Community Health Centre nearing completion this fiscal year, the department will focus attention on the construction of the new community health centre in Taloyoak in 2013-14, health minister Keith Peterson said in the Committee of the Whole.
The department asked for $15.7 million to start the first year of construction of that two-year $25.7 million capital project.
In 2013-14, the department also plans to continue with the second year of the Baffin Regional Hospital renovations at a cost of $7 million.
“It’s nice to know that the Repulse Bay and the Taloyoak health centres are on track because I’ve been assured by even the previous minister that as long as those health centres were on track and being constructed on schedule that the deadlines for the Arctic Bay health centre would be met as well,” Elliott said.